It’s a week of season premieres in this week’s CW/DC TV Roundup!
Supergirl: Season 3 Episode 1 “Girl of Steel”
“Girl of Steel” did not feel like a season premiere episode. The episode is still technically well constructed, functions without major missteps and even nails its humorous aspects but while every other story in the episode functions as it should it’s Kara’s that falls flat. Disenchanted with her human persona after her separation with Mon-El, Kara starts doubling down on her efforts as Supergirl. As a result, she lapses in her work at CatCo and becomes cold and isolated from her friends and family. This storyline directly affects all the others moving forward in the episode, so the connections that the other characters have with Kara are tested by her sudden withdrawal. Maggie and Alex’s relationship is strained during the planning of their wedding after Alex becomes increasingly worried about Kara and becomes less available to her fiance: This storyline works from a combination of Maggie and Alex’s relationship history thus far and Chyler Leigh’s excellent dramatic performance. Lena and James butt heads with a new capitalist tycoon who seeks to profit from National City’s revitalization after the invasion of the Daxamites: Kara fails to maintain her work as a reporter for Catco and James in the wake of an attempt to buy the media empire and also fails to provide emotional support to her friend Lena even after everything that happened with Lillian. The only thing that doesn’t work is Kara’s sudden change in attitude. It’s understandable given the circumstances of the last season that she would be withdrawn, but this version of the character makes no sense against all the development she’s had in the past two seasons. This is supposed to be a serious trauma, but Kara is unrecognizable in this form and the storyline itself ends up alienating as a result. Add that with some transparent groan-inducing topical back-row mudslinging and a proxy for Trump and this episode ends up pedestrian and childish and definitely doesn’t match the pedigree that Supergirl has been developing.
The Flash: Season 4 Episode 1 “The Flash Reborn”
Woo! Talk about a great premiere (I’m looking at you “Girl of Steel!”) The Flash Reborn brings Barry back relatively easily but buries it in enough real-sounding pseudo-science that I didn’t even bother trying to ensure it made sense. Caitlin and Cisco delivered the lines with enough gusto that I was inclined to believe them. Before all that though, let’s get in to just how on the ball everyone seems to be for this one. Candice Patton’s Iris has been developing impressively throughout the series thus far and this episode is just another example of Iris’ continued evolution as a character that reacts realistically to the events surrounding her. Even considering that though, Keiynana Lonsdale’s portrayal made me realize I missed Wally the most. Not necessarily Wally of the show thus far but proper comic book Wally West. When Wally first showed up I was almost insulted by the show’s interpretation of him considering his legendary comic roots, but as his arc progressed he seemed to be do nothing but improve with “The Flash Reborn” actually adding a punctuation to that improvement with solid jokes, delivery, and skills not to mention a fun nod to his comic book counterpart taking up the Flash mantle himself after Barry Allen’s death (in Crisis on Infinite Earths.) But it’s Barry’s screen-shaking return that makes the episode feel like a treat. Since the first half goes on without Barry in any capacity, it’s really felt when he suddenly speeds back onto the scene. Though the “Beautiful Mind Barry” was a necessary aspect of the plot, it was still irritating but I will defer at this moment from calling it predictable and almost rhythmic acting or masterful foreshadowing. Whether or not it was easy to watch, I’m still in intrigued by the mystery itself so I can’t say it doesn’t do its job. Finally, we get to the big question. Is the Flash reborn? Yes. Barry’s loss in this time is conveyed so well by the story that we feel genuine relief and excitement when he finally gets back to it. New and improved as well, including an exciting and surprisingly solid CGI chase scene with the Samuroid (Samurai-android, duh.) The Flash Reborn is an exciting, funny, and visually vibrant season premiere, that does the main thing a season premiere is supposed to do; create anticipation for what’s to come.
Legends of Tomorrow: Season 3 Episode 1 “Aruba-Con”
Alright, I confess. I was of the firm opinion that “Legends of Tomorrow was a disaster,” when I finished the last season. As a result, this is the one that I was looking forward to the least. Pre-disposed disappointment is the opposite of anticipation though, and nothing kills objective thought faster than anticipation. In other words, I was fully ready for “Aruba-Con” to suck, but instead, I was pleasantly surprised as it finally reveals exactly what kind of show Legends of Tomorrow is striving to be. Ready? It’s a sci-fi comedy about a bunch of outcasts who equally save the world and screw things up. Maybe you knew that, because that’s the glove the show has been trying to fit into since it aired. This time though the characters benefit from context. The Legends’ last mission results in their unceremonious disbandment by Rip Hunter and his newly formed Time Bureau. So there’s absolutely no doubt that these characters are the outcasts they have been claiming to be all this time when they’re made irrelevant by a highly efficient MIB (Men in Black) type outfit dedicated to doing the exact job that the Legends specialized in. This context is not only valuable but downright funny. We see Nate, Ray, and Sara trying to live normal lives in hilariously complicated and awkward ways, and failing to find niches even considering their outstanding skills and powers. Nate and Ray’s chemistry is obvious after only being hinted at in season two and Caity Lotz’ Sara’s charm translates well into solid humor, even within the context of her serious character arc. From the look at this first episode, this season might be leaning pretty heavily on humor to get the Legends to the fourth season, and that’s honestly a great idea! This episode is funny but with serious moments that reflect on the characters’ development without damaging the irreverence that sets the series apart from its contemporaries. Rip’s new role as a disappointed father figure of the Legends is a bit odd and that evolution mostly seemed to happen offscreen so I’m still trying to figure it out, but Arthur Darvill is just as good at doing this as he has been at all the other things Rip has been in the series to date. Of course Victor Garber (Stein,) Franz Drameh (Jefferson,) and Dominic Purcell (Mick Rory) all return to the fold in top form contributing their own expertise, even if they don’t stand out quite as much as Brandon Routh (Ray,) Nick Zano (Nate,) and Caity Lotz (Sara) when it comes to the success of the show’s contextual irreverence. Of course, I was impressed with the season two premiere as well, so we’ll see if Legends can stick to its guns this time. It’s still got a long way to go before it gets back on track, but I think they’ve got the direction pretty much figured out.
Arrow: Season 6 Episode 1 “Fallout”
Like “Girl of Steel,” the first episode of this fall’s third season of Supergirl, “Fallout,” the first episode of this fall’s sixth season of Arrow doesn’t actually feel like a season premiere. After the finale of last season, “Lian Yu,” I expected to find Team Arrow in a drastically changed place but for the most part, it’s business as usual with the exception of a couple of losses. The episode shows that this season will focus quite a bit on Oliver and William’s dynamic after the dumb and totally avoidable death of William’s mother, Samantha. Oliver and William’s interactions are maddening especially one that involved William blaming Oliver for his mother’s death in the most roundabout and unnatural way. The scenes are so far removed from everything else happening in the episode that it gives the impression that the scenes are happening on an island. It’s so detached and emotionally heavy that it never connects to Oliver’s actions as either mayor or Green Arrow. Alright, so Oliver’s side-story is kind of a dud, but how goes the main conflict of the episode? Honestly, I couldn’t really tell you what it was. Laurel 2 is blowing up a whole bunch of stuff in order to punish Lance who shot her after she almost killed Dinah back when the island exploded, and for some reason that’s a big secret that has to be kept which means plenty of showdowns between Laurel 2 and Dinah in highly choreographed totally isolated and frankly boring obligatory fights between the two, and Lance wanting to drink! So yay! At least we get to see that conflict again because I think it’s been half a year since we hit that particular nail. Then Diggle seems to be having trouble firing his gun at people, which is never actually explained, and one of Curtis’ T-Spheres is stolen which is also a complete mystery. The problem is that the episode just sort of glosses over all this stuff where even foreshadowing is a “blink and you’ll miss it” moment. After seeing the sizzle-reel of the coming season I was interested to see where Arrow was going to go, especially now that it’s locked out of Lian Yu flashbacks but then they just replaced it with the aftermath of the explosion. The next episode is set up, this time with photographic proof leaking to the press of the Green Arrow’s true identity, but for some reason, this episode is so isolated that it doesn’t even feel like it’s part of a larger whole. In fact, all through Fallout, I genuinely thought that maybe it was a dream or a joke or something but it’s really just back to the same old same old. Despite all this complaining, I really like Arrow, but “Fallout” is so basic, glossy, and generic that it doesn’t seem to care that at best it’s convoluted and at worst it’s sleep-walking.
Final Word: Neither Supergirl or Arrow started this season off on its best foot, but I still have hope that despite these poor showings that great things are coming. Flash and Legends, however, seem to know exactly what they are with Legends being a big surprise. The season’s big-bad, over-arching plot, or mission statement is curiously absent from Legends though which leads me to worry that they’ll just pull one out all too late like they did last time. Flash, however, came back with confidence, charisma, and most of all improvement. Great CGI, expanded characters, and personalities, and a simple yet genuinely resurrection of its titular character made this feel not only like a great episode of the Flash but a real season premiere. For that reason, “The Flash Reborn” has been the only episode of the fall season on CW/DC TV shows that nailed its the first jump. I’m intrigued to see where each season of Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, and Arrow is going to go but The Flash (Thanks to “The Flash Reborn”) is the one I’m genuinely excited about.